"Time Out” or Punishment at School--"Support Rooms"
Reported by: Jane Flasch
Last Update: 4/02 9:04 pm
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Program Standards for Behavioral Interventions (35.3KB)
Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES Statement (8.6KB)
Slideshow (Wayne Co., N.Y.) - Ken Hall was so upset about the “time out” room used at his son's school that he grabbed his video camera.
A “support room” is maintained at Finger Lakes Elementary School. Children who attend the BOCES program have emotional and other behavioral issues. When they act out in certain ways they are sent to a support room
Ken Hall thought the rooms were classrooms. Yet as his video shows, the rooms are quite small.
"When I took that video all I could do was stand and turn around,” Hall said.
Ken's son is a 9-year old second grader who has spent up to four hours in one of the little rooms.
"I was shocked,” said the boy’s uncle, Dan Hall. “It's just a concrete room and as small as it is, I can't describe it as anything but a closet."
The rooms are sanctioned by the state education department, but are carefully regulated. Many districts use them to provide a safe place when a child's behavior becomes a danger to himself or others.
Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES administers the program. A spokesman says the support room policies are in accordance with New York State regulations. However, he would not consent to an interview on camera, nor would he answer questions over the phone.
The state does not say how big the room has to be…only that it must be large enough for the child to lie down, and be constructed of materials designed to prevent injury.
At Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES, the support rooms have concrete walls and wooden benches.
"What if a child begins to engage in head-banging behavior? That can be a problem," said Dr. Santo Bentivegna, a clinical psychologist.
Bentivegna has administered programs for people in state facilities who have extreme emotional problems, and he’s familiar with state regulations.
He agreed to watch Ken Hall’s video, including the part where Ken's son crawls under the bench.
“The child is cowering,” Bentivegna said. “The only place he can cower in this room is the little space beneath the shelf seat."
When intervention rooms are used, New York requires that the student be placed there for a limited time only, and be constantly monitored. The state also mandates that the room can not be used for punishment, and that the parents must be notified.
The clinical reports for Ken Hall's son raise some questions about those rules.
Angry and even violent behavior triggers Hall’s son being moved to the support room.
On January 9, the boy spent 15 minutes there, at which time the school day ended and he was sent home. When he returned the next day, he was put right back into the room. (The report records the action being carried over from the day before.)
Dr. Bentivegna said, "The notion that you have not served enough time and you have to come back and finish your time the next day…that is totally against behavior modification theory. That is against the practice of time out. That is punishment."
Replacing the child in the support room the next morning sparked a series of new outbursts. The child spent three hours and ten minutes in the little room that day.
"If I did that to my son at home, I'd go to jail,” Hall said.
State law requires parents to be notified, and give their consent, but Hall said he only recently learned of the size of these rooms.
Now he wants his child out of the program, but because of the child’s joint custody, a law guardian was appointed.
Yates County Family Court has evaluated the program and is directing Hall's son to continue to attendance.
Does the program violate state guidelines? Tom Dunn of the education department would not answer the questions raised by our investigation. He said the parent should file a formal complaint which launches a mandatory investigation.
Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES declined to provide any information unless 13WHAM News first submits questions in writing.
They also declined to engage in a phone dialog about these issues.
BBQ..June 27th..be there or be square..
Bring something for The House of Concern please!